Tag Archives: republican party

Populism carries Trump to the nomination. He’s completed 1 of 4 steps to victory.

Summary: With Trump leading in polls for most of the coming primaries, let’s review his success in the four keys to winning in November. Equally important is the reaction of Democrats to his success, and what it tells us about the potential for a new broad coalition (like the New Deal) that can defeat the 1%.

The New Deal is as dead as FDR. But a new coalition can be built for the 21st C.

New Deal Button

On January 7 I listed four keys to a possible Trump victory.

  1. Build political organization that gets votes — Done.
  2. Craft a message that appeals to majority of Americans.
  3. Strike a deal with America’s ruling elites. Now they see Trump as a disruptor of a political game that they own. But Trump is both one of them (2nd generation) and a consummate deal-maker (his big book is The Art of the Deal). The necessary alliances will come easily if he wins the nomination.
  4. Luck, such as a recession in mid-year, which could easily happen.

Trump has completed the first task (as I expected). Now he’s working on the second, to more effectively tap the resurgent populism that catapulted him to the top of the GOP.

CNN says that “Trump has hammered Wall Street in recent speeches, wants to raise taxes on the rich and has embraced policies that will hurt many multinational companies.” Michael Tesler (Asst professor of political science, UC Irvine) describes the results as showing “economically progressive positions, combined with Trump’s harsh rhetoric about minority groups, seem to have created a powerful populist coalition that has made Trump the front-runner…”

Polls show the result: broad appeal among Republicans and independents. Even the good liberals at Slate have noticed (“Think Hillary Clinton Will Crush Donald Trump in the General Election? Don’t Be So Sure“). RAND’s Presidential Election Panel Survey (PEPS) shows his success. Slowly our political gurus see this. Bernie Becker in Politico writes about “Trump’s 6 populist positions“. Even more insightful is Jonathon Chait in NY Magazine

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Another smart move by Trump. Continued blindness by Democrats.

Summary:  Trump’s ascent shows the decay of the US political system. We see it in the inability of our political elites to see the forces propelling him or his smart moves, and their clumsy attempts to stop him. If he wins at the GOP convention, the Democrats will have to confront his message. They might find that difficult. Perhaps they know that, and so prefer to mock instead of engage.

Donald Trump and Palin

Our elites, their servants, and those who see the world through their eyes, all have been surprised at every success by Trump. The New York Post shows why. Palin’s endorsement of Trump boosts his support from the Right — where most of his opponents live. The votes he loses are ones he was never going to get. Amidst the mockery, a few see this obvious fact. Such as this by Timothy Stanley at CNN

“In fact, the endorsement is a smarter move than it might first appear. Sure, Palin has been near-invisible this campaign season and, sure, she is toxic to many liberal commentators and moderate voters. But Trump doesn’t need their votes right now. He needs to win Iowa. … the endorsement is God’s gift to Trump before Iowa. Elections in the Hawkeye State are swung by grass-roots activism and the enthusiasm of evangelical activists. Palin may not have exactly handed these over to Trump, but she has surely distracted them from the allure of Ted Cruz”

Showing the Left’s incisive thinking, journalist Charles Pierce at Esquire asks the key question

“There is only one question worth asking about the sudden alliance between a vulgar talking yam and Princess Dumbass of the Northwoods. … What did it cost him?”

Adam Lerner at Politico has an answer: “Donald Trump says he’d tap Sarah Palin for a Cabinet post“. But the tape shows that Tump promised nothing. On “Momma Grizzly Radio” Kevin Scholla asked Trump…

“If there is a Trump Administration, could you see maybe picking up the phone and giving the governor a call? Picking her brain on some things, or perhaps having her along in some official capacity.”

Trump’s reply was that of a competent politician. Smooth but making no promises.

“I’d love that because she really is somebody who knows what’s happening. She’s a special person. She’s really a special person. And I think people know that and she’s got a following that’s unbelievable,”

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Trump, not Sanders, is the revolutionary

Summary:  Journalists and political gurus dismiss Sanders as a wannabe revolutionary while focusing on the minutia of the GOP presidential horse-race. That’s wrong. Trump is a revolutionary, and only seeing the big picture reveals why. Even if he fails (as he probably will), others will travel the trail he blazed.

“Although Nero’s death had at first been welcomed with outbursts of joy, it roused varying emotions, not only in the city among the senators and people and the city soldiery, but also among all the legions and generals; for the secret of empire was now revealed, that an emperor could be made elsewhere than at Rome.”
— From The Histories by Tacitus (~56 – 117 A.D.).

Perhaps true, but not led by him

The Sanders Revolution

Trump has a long difficult road to climb to reach the White House, and his odds of success are small. But his unexpected success so far blazes a path others will follow. For he has shown the hollowness of the American political system. All the things so valued by our political engineers and columnists have proven ephemeral, even unnecessary. Even a Trump defeat shows the possibility of winning the Presidency by defying the authorities and mocking the conventions.

Trump is the revolutionary in the true sense — of achieving power by unorthodox methods, unauthorized by those holding the levers of power. That he does advocate revolution is commonplace, as revolutionaries often promise to purify the political region (or society) and restore old values. Since that is seldom possible, more often they lead to a new future (for good or ill).

Can Trump win?

To see the potentially revolutionary nature of Trump’s campaign see the P2016 website for Democracy in Action. They have data for the national and local campaign organizations for each major candidate. Compare the organization pages for Trump and Jeb Bush. One describes a professional-designed and lavishly funded political machine. The other is an outline or skeleton of a machine. Yet Bush has 5% in the polls vs. 34% for Trump.

Despite the hundreds of full-time professional journalists covering the Republican race, we know little about it. They file hundreds of almost identical stories, a demonstration of the gross overcapacity in the American news media (made worse by American’s disinterest in paying for news).

Perhaps the best guides to assess the grassroots action are the State polls, few though they are. The most recent scores show Trump running strong as the clock runs down to the first contests.

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The four keys to a possible Trump victory

Summary: What might be the consequences of wins by Trump in early GOP primaries? How will journalists and other opinion-makers react? What will our ruling elites do? What might he do in the White House? I believe the conventional wisdom is wrong about all of these questions. Here are better answers, showing the four keys to a Trump victory.

Trump: Make America Great Again

How will opinion-makers react should Trump win GOP primaries?

Events make opinions, as seen by looking at extreme examples from the past. In 1815 Napoleon broke his exile on Elba and marched to Paris. See the headlines in Le Moniteur Universel reporting his progress.

  • The cannibal has left his lair. — March 9.
  • The Corsican ogre has just landed at the Juan Gulf. — March 10.
  • The tiger has arrived at Gap. — March 11.
  • The monster slept at Grenoble. — March 12.
  • The tyrant has crossed Lyons. — March 13.
  • The usurper was seen sixty leagues from the capital. — March 18.
  • Bonaparte has advanced with great strides, but he will never enter Paris. — March 19.
  • Tomorrow, Napoleon will be under our ramparts. — March 20.
  • The Emperor has arrived at Fontainbleau. — March 21.
  • His Imperial and Royal Majesty entered his palace at the Tuileries last night in the midst of his faithful subjects. — March 22.

This is what I expect to see if Trump wins in the early primaries. Americans love a winner (doubly so for our journalists and other opinion-makers). Trump the outcast will become Trump the star.

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Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism

Summary: Slowly our leaders and political gurus realize that Trump represents powerful currents in American society. It is a new populism, unlike the faux populism of the Left. While their initial expectations of a Trump flame-out have proven false, they still underestimate him. Further surprises await us as we journey down this dark path.

GOP presidential poll, 17 December 2015

On August 6 Nate Silver published “Donald Trump’s Six Stages Of Doom” (the same week I wrote The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning). Here is the core of Silver’s analysis, with his 6 steps (slightly paraphrased).

“If you want absurd specificity, I recently estimated Trump’s chance of becoming the GOP nominee at 2 percent. …History’s lesson isn’t necessarily that Trump’s candidacy will go bust tomorrow, however. …The lesson, rather, is that Trump’s campaign will fail by one means or another. …{to get 2%} assume he has a 50% chance of surviving each subsequent stage of the gantlet.”

  1. Free-for-all. This is the stage we’re in now.
  2. Heightened scrutiny in mid-November or thereabouts, as voters up their level of attention to the campaign. Potential threat to Trump if polling support doesn’t translate to support from more-informed voters.
  3. Iowa and New Hampshire: February 1 and 9. Potential threat to Trump if he performs poorly in one or both, either in an absolute sense or relative to polls.
  4. Winnowing in mid-February through mid-March. Potential threat to Trump if other leaders gathering support as candidates drop out.
  5. Delegate accumulation in mid-March through June. Potential threats to Trump if he builds weak State and local organizations and gains little support from superdelegates.
  6. Endgame from June through Republican National Convention in July. Potential threat to Trump if the Republican Party’s leaders work to deny him the nomination.

The first hope of GOP leaders and political gurus was that Trump would self-destruct. However his outrageous statements appear to win him as much support as they lose (see the reason below).

Their second hope was that Trump would fail to build the necessary organization to get on the 50 state ballots — and win. Trump might disappoint them again. He was the first to file in the GOP New Hampshire primary. He was the first in either party to file in Virginia, despite it having some of the most difficult requirements in the nation. He has appointed leadership teams in Virginia (here and here), North Carolina, Oklahoma, Alabama and Illinois, Florida and Texas, more about Texas, and Massachusetts and Mississippi.

Building an organization like those of his rivals is necessary for Trump’s success — but not the key to it. He employs the new tools of mass media far better than any of his competitors. Dave Helling at the Kansas City Star explains: “Donald Trump builds lead without the tools of traditional campaigns” — Excerpt…

“GOP presidential front-runner relies on media coverage and social outreach instead of ads and phone banks. Experts wonder if he can win the nomination with this low-cost approach. Other Republicans have relied on traditional strategies, with mixed results.”

Follow the money

Trump has built a commanding lead among Republicans while spending far less than his rivals. As of the Sept 30, the last filing, Trump had raised $5.5 million: 12th largest in the GOP race, behind Jeb Bush at $133 million), 72% of which was from small donations (vs. 88% for Sanders). See the NYT for details. Oddly, Trump’s “donations to his campaign go to him, personally.”

Bloomberg describes one way he has done so: “How Trump Has Neutralized Super-PAC Cash” — “The Republican front-runner has dominated his rivals in terms of free media coverage.”

My prediction is that Trump will have to raise large sums to win the nomination, even larger sums in the general campaign — and will do so easily. Americans love a winner. Our plutocrats are as susceptible to the bandwagon effect as the rest of us. Many or most donate in expectation of future benefits (hence so many donate to both parties). When Trump needs the money, he will have the money.

The populist revival

Trump has tapped the deep stratum of American populism: resentful, nativist, racist, egalitarian (within nativist and racial lines), anti-authoritarian, and anti-intellectual. The major parties absorbed and suppressed populists (the most recent outbreak was George Wallace’s run in 1968), much as they absorbed and suppressed populism (the most recent outbreak was John Anderson’s run in 1980).

Reform in America usually becomes possible only when they combine. The 1% win today because these two currents are sundered. The people in these two kinds of movements seldom not like each other, and so find it difficult to combine except under great stress.

Arnold discovered our weakness and folly

In these turbulent times outsiders can gain high office in America without relevant experience or party sponsorship, even when running for frivolous motives. In 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger showed the weakness of today’s parties and the fecklessness of American voters, as Michael Lewis’ interview with him in Vanity Fair reminds us…

If there had not been a popular movement to remove sitting governor Gray Davis and the chance to run for governor without having to endure a party primary, he {Arnold Schwarzenegger} never would have bothered. “The recall happens and people are asking me, ‘What are you going to do?’  … I thought about it but decided I wasn’t going to do it. I told Maria I wasn’t running. I told everyone I wasn’t running. I wasn’t running.”

Then, in the middle of the recall madness, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” opened. As the movie’s leading machine, he was expected to appear on “The Tonight Show” to promote it. En route he experienced a familiar impulse — the impulse to do something out of the ordinary.

“I just thought, This will freak everyone out … it’ll be so funny. I’ll announce that I am running. I told Leno I was running. And two months later I was governor. … What the f*** is that? …All these people are asking me, ‘What’s your plan? Who’s on your staff?’ I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a staff. I wasn’t running until I went on Jay Leno.”

This is not how great nations run themselves. We can find competent leadership. Otherwise I believe America will have hard times in the 21st century.

Other posts about the new populism

  1. From August: The Donald Trump revolution, dismissed as all revolts are in the beginning.
  2. Background: Scary lessons for America from pre-revolutionary France.
  3. Donald Trump leads us back to the future, to the dark days of US history.
  4. A New America arises, perhaps with Trump as its first leader.
  5. Two scary graphs about the rise of Donald. Fear fascism. Act now.
  6. Look to the Left to see the force powering Trump and Carson.
  7. The numbers about immigration that fuel Trump’s campaign.
  8. New York shows how Democrat-run cities & states contribute to the rise of Trump.
  9. Good news: we begin to see that we are sliding towards fascism.
  10. Next phase of the Trump revolution: rise of the new populism.
  11. Important: Trump’s hope: a recession might put him in the White House.
  12. The four keys to a possible Trump victory.

For More Information

A rare mention (quickly dropped) in the major media that Trump is a populist candidate: “The Great Republican Revolt” by David Frum in The Atlantic — “The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?”

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Mike Lofgren: Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives

Summary: Here’s another article describing how America has begun what might be a pre-revolutionary situation. Both Left and Right have revolutionary aims, but only the Right has captured and harnessed one of the major parties. Great changes often come in unnoticed “on little cat feet“, and only roar after they’re well-established.

“’Republicans this year don’t want managers, they want transformers,’ conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, a Cruz supporter, told The Hill. ‘They don’t want reform, they want revolution. They don’t want a better government, they want a new government. The ground has shifted and the grassroots conservatives have taken the establishment’s preeminence away.’”
— From “Governors flop in Republican race“, Jonathan Easley, The Hill, 8 Nov 2015.


Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives

by Mike Lofgren
Posted at Bill Moyers & Co, 9 November 2015
Posted here with the authors’ generous permission.

There is much to commend in Thomas Schaller’s recent piece describing the built-in structural advantages that the Republican Party enjoys in the American electoral system. Some analysts believe this advantage derives from the systematic gerrymandering of legislative districts; others declare it a result of a voluntary demographic “sorting” of Democrats into metropolitan areas and Republicans to exurbia. Schaller sees that it is both and that the two phenomena reinforce one another.

Structural bias: It’s worse than you think

That said, the structural imbalance in the American political system is even more pronounced than Schaller depicts. The “small state” bias in the Senate that he condemns derives from the Connecticut Compromise during the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the agreement that gave each state equal representation in the United States Senate. It was initially favored by smaller Northern states, which were then growing less rapidly in population, but after incorporation of the infamous three-fifths rule allowing states to include slaves in their head count for representation in the House, it became a tool of the reactionary Southern oligarchy to block any tampering with slavery for the next seven decades.

Yet even after the three-fifths rule and slavery were abolished amid the greatest effusion of blood in American history, the same elements that controlled the antebellum Senate continued to have a lock on that chamber until the 1960s. Ira Katznelson has described in persuasive detail how the many reforms – sweeping in their scope – that President Roosevelt believed were necessary both to save capitalism from itself and to modernize the United States were delayed and watered down by the Southern bloc controlling the Senate. And it took another thirty years after that to end Jim Crow.

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About the Putin-envy of Republican presidential candidates

Summary: There are many candidates vying to become the Republican’s Presidential nominee, but they offer a narrow range of policies — especially in foreign affairs. Here Bill Astore describes where they wish to take America. Unlike Putin, they’re serious.

The idol of the Republican Candidate for President!

Putin riding a bear

How Republicans Talk About Foreign Policy

By William J. Astore, from Contrary Perspective, 9 October 2015
Reposted with his generous permission

At the New York Times, Robert Draper had a fascinating article last month on how Republican candidates for president are positioning themselves on foreign policy.  Rand Paul excepted, all of the Republican candidates are calling for a more “aggressive” U.S. foreign policy, one that promises more military interventions and higher military spending.  The goal is apparently to show more muscle than President Obama, who has been “weak,” according to these same Republicans.

The language here fascinates me.  Again and again in Draper’s article, you see references to “a more muscular foreign policy.”  Showcasing muscles appears to be a favorite trope of Republican advisers, as is the need to be more “aggressive” overseas (Obama, of course, is viewed as being passive and timid).  Republicans according to Draper favor the “aggressive promotion of American values” (whatever those are), an aggression that will somehow avoid recklessness (good luck with that).  So, ISIS will be aggressively “destroyed,” even as the Middle East is stabilized by infusing it with “American values” (freedom? democracy? human rights?) promulgated by (as near as I can tell) American military muscle.

To cite just one example, consider this political ad featuring Senator Lindsey Graham, seen in his Air Force reserve uniform, highlighting his promise to “destroy” ISIS.

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